Sunday, 18 August 2013

Tavi's Big Big World

I'll admit that the first time I looked at Tavi Gevinson's blog was this afternoon, on my phone, sat on the steps of the Sydney Opera House, waiting for my friends.

From 2.30pm and for the next hour and a half we heard 17 year old Tavi's musings on life through her own eyes- through, I discovered, the eyes of an extremely self aware, bright, quick witted, considered, deep and critical thinker.

What I knew of Tavi prior to this amazing talk and interview was that she had started a fashion blog called The Style Rookie aged 11 and for some reason it was picked up by the creative directors of several international fashion houses. I recall seeing images of a very small, timid looking creature, sat on the front row of most designer shows, or engulfed by the arms of Karl Lagerfeld who quickly named Tavi his NBFF.

Turns out that between now and then, Tavi has grown in her style and broadened her thinking to global ideas, which include fashion, but also many other things. Aged 15 she started the widely-popular online mag Rookie and has spoken for TED.

Tavi is a feminist and a Fangirl. The latter, I believe, refers to a girl who is a fan of something or someone like a building, image, event, pop group, an artist, poet, brand, philosopher, astrophysicist, inventor or museum curator. 

What I like about her ownership of the positive side of the admiration of others is her learning that "it is OK if your own creativity is the sum of what you admire in your heroes". In other words, it is OK to not be entirely unique, innovative and original every second of every day. It is in fact fairly difficult to write something completely new; you have to use a selection of words that are already in existence unless you wanted to make words up, but then it would not make sense to the reader. You should not be scared to try, just because your heroes said and did awesome things before you.

Tavi says "heroes are human and you have a place next to them".

In line with this view, Tavi referenced someone else's work and suggested we view Pressure, Power and Punk Rock.

Indeed, over that hour and a half I came to know Tavi as somewhat of a guru on how to live your life. She does not subscribe to the conventional idea of success, rather she argues that "it is about what's important to you. You'll get there eventually so take it easy on yourself". 

She also advised to think carefully about how you spend your time, because even wasting time online, over time, adds up and starts to become a part of you. For this the remedy is to rid yourself of the 'band-aid' solutions associated with the instant gratification of Facebook likes and similar and to do things you really enjoy.

One of my favourite Tavi quotes was: "who you are is not made up of how others see you, it is how you see the world". Of course, that is probably an amalgamation of quotes from her own heroes.

Tavi champions learning to love uncertainty and embracing your ignorance of some areas of the world. She advices allowing yourself to change. Things influence us in different ways during those moments of change. The magic you first felt from reading your favourite poem does not come from the words on the page but from the link you made within yourself to what you were reading and experiencing at that time in your life.

She also referenced that some things in life are more mystical from afar. I do not support the notion that daydreaming is always more satisfying than real experience, however I can see that some things probably appear more glamorous before you experience them in reality.

I think Tavi is brilliant. That I want to say foremost because I am also aware that I have made some amateur psychoanalytical comments below, none of which are meant as criticism. Tavi herself was honest enough to reveal that last November she was diagnosed with depression. This she describes as horrible and not feeling good enough or worthy enough, but at least she felt she could now only partly ironically celebrate being a 'tormented artist'.

Afterward a friend offered that perhaps she is so brilliant because she is in fact autistic. Tavi did make several references to enjoying being on her own. I really relished her honesty when she said it was great being invited to the front row of Chanel, Dior and the like, but because of all the hype and people around she actually preferred to appreciate fashion at home online or through looking in magazines. It is possible of course that she has some of the characteristics of someone who has aspergers syndrome, but even if she is slightly on the autistic spectrum then I think she is certainly high in functioning. Equally, she is probably right that many fashion shows are actually less about fashion and more about who said what about who.

When asked how she juggles school, managing teams of people at her online magazine and travelling the world for events like today at the Opera House, Tavi claims she has simply stopped procrastinating (which, she explains, for her was spending time online and being jealous of people). Everything she does is of value to where she is going, including allowing herself time to rest in front of the TV sometimes.

When questioned about the weight of her responsibilities she was honest and admitted that she does feel the pressure to perform now that she is in the pubic eye, as well as the pressure of ensuring that her own impressionable Fangirls are given insightful and inspiring reads on Rookie. 

A slightly obsessive side of Tavi was shown when she spoke of her journal writing where she has written out song lyrics and highlighted similar words then colour-coded them. In one case, when she chose to highlight words associated with light (for example, headlight, glow, lightening), Tavi produced call cards for each type of light she found and stuck them on her wall with references to each song and band that mentioned them. The good thing is that she is able to channel this obsessive behaviour positively and creatively. She enjoys showcasing things that she loves in a variety of ways.

If you are ever feeling as though the world is short of wonder, or if it is in fact full of wonder but you are losing the ability to see it, Tavi advises that you not only stay open and connected, but that you search for that wonder. A fan of someone or something is open, loves things and wants to feel connected. I am now a fan of Tavi.

Having entered the auditorium largely unaware of what the originally mousey-haired girl (with pudding-bowl hair cut, large bow on her head and jam jar glasses- although she now has a more sophisticated blonde bob) was all about, I left thoroughly intrigued as to what she will do next. 

Is Tavi the future of journalism, as Lady GaGa says?

Tavi answered one question: "All I am saying is that I have a folder entitled 'World Domination' on my desktop..."

However, she later went on to acknowledge that sometimes we can have too much big picture thinking and we need to focus closer to home for a while.

Having had the privilege of listening to the way that Tavi articulates her thought processes when answering often complex questions, I have no doubt that she has the potential to be a great future leader. She has been heralded as a child prodigy compared to the likes of Kate Bush and even Mozart and I started to believe that she is (was- she is certainly well into her teens now and is wiser beyond those years). My prediction is that she will study PPE at Oxford, or a similar subject closer to home in the US, before either setting up a social enterprise similar to TOMS shoes, or entering into politics. Naturally I hope that she will use her gifts as a writer and leader to do something awesome for the world.

So there you go. In the spirit of Tavi herself, I am writing (in an obsessively long way) about someone that I think is fantastic. Like Tavi's big, big world, all of our big, big worlds are made up of little things like memories and insights from those we admire. Sharing these with other people is what is important.